IRA-FARC link probe likely to go forward

Posted By: March 29, 2013

© 2001 Irish Echo Newspaper Corp.
December 19-25, 2001
By Jack Holland

There is no prospect that the inquiry into allegations about links between the IRA and the Colombian narco-terrorist group FARC will stop, despite pressure to have them halted, according to a well-placed Washington source.
“Any idea that this will go away is foolish, it’s craziness,” he said.
He was responding to a letter from the Irish National Congress that was sent to all members of the House Committee On International Relations appealing to them “not to schedule the above mentioned hearing” because it would “harm the Irish peace process.” It was sent by the INC president, Father Sean McManus.
The hearings would be scheduled for next spring, if the ongoing inquiry finds substance in the allegations that the IRA has been involved in training FARC activists for a number of years. FARC has been fighting a war against the U.S.-backed Colombian government, as well as linked to the massive drugs trade from that country.
In August, three Irishmen were arrested in Bogota, all of whom have been connected to the IRA. It has been alleged that Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley were involved in training FARC members in the use of mortars for attacks against police stations in urban areas. Connolly has also been identified as Sinn Fein’s representative in Cuba. The IRA has denied that its leadership body, the Army Council, sent them to Colombia.
In a separate letter sent to Rep. Bill Delahunt, who is heading up the inquiry, the INC’s McManus said: “If you were a right-wing, anti-Catholic Republican from the Bible Belt, I could maybe understand. But for God’s sake, Bill, you are an Irish-American Catholic Democrat from Massachusetts! What are you thinking?”
According to the McManus, if such a hearing were to go ahead, it would “inevitably be seen as an attempt to embarrass Sinn Fein — thus helping the forces that are intent on sabotaging the Irish Peace Process.”
McManus said that there was “growing concern” in Rep. Delahunt’s South Boston district, which is heavily Irish American.
Jack Meehan, national treasurer of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, who is a Delahunt constituent, said that Irish Americans in the district “fail to see what his motivation is.”
“It allegedly happened,” he said of the possible IRA-FARC link. “But let’s move on. Let’s not embarrass Sinn Fein.”
Meehan said he was trying to arrange a meeting with the congressman to express his concerns.
However, sources in Washington believe that since the matter is already under judicial inquiry in Colombia, the house committee is committed to proceed. It would be an embarrassment, they argue, if the committee were to halt its investigation and the three Irishmen were later convicted of aiding terrorists.
“The reality,” said a congressional source, “is that Colombia is a long-time ally of the U.S. and the third largest recipient of U.S. aid. Almost all our cocaine comes from there and between 60 and 70 percent of our heroin. We have a massive footprint there.”
It is known that the U.S. has more than 1,000 personnel in Colombia, including advisers, Drug Enforcement Agency officials and contractors. Richard Haass, President Bushe’s point man on Northern Ireland, has repeatedly warned Sinn Fein about the serious consequences of IRA involvement in Colombia.
Said McManus: “I would welcome the help of anyone to change Delahunt’s perspective.”
Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, the chairman of the committee, is expected to reply to the McManus letter shortly.